Online experience creates complaints

Illustration by RAYGAN LOPEZ | The Ranger


Student Reporter

Amarillo College’s learning management system, Blackboard, will be getting an upgrade this January. The upcoming change is designed to make the online class delivery product easier to use.

Regardless of major or class schedule, it is likely that in a typical Amarillo College student’s day they will encounter the all too familiar Blackboard classroom. Every Blackboard class is a little different, but officials say there is a method to how classes typically are set up.

“Each instructor has the freedom to do what they choose to do, but we do have a good lineup, like for instance we would recommend that stuff be under the content page,” said Michaela Dodson, an AC instructional designer. “We also recommend that if a professor’s class is set up differently that there is some orientation page or video to show students how to navigate and work their way through the course.”

Professors say they strive to build Blackboard classes that are clear and easy for students to use.

“I like my classrooms pretty streamlined so it is pretty easy for the students to navigate,” said Jacqueline Llewellyn, a speech instructor and dual credit coordinator of speech communication. “There is a content tab where I put everything and I split it up by week, and everything goes there. I think it makes it easier for students to access, especially if there is a day they have to miss.”

However, students say sometimes they find Blackboard frustrating.

“I do not think that all of my professors utilize Blackboard to its fullest extent because some professors do not know how to use all the features Blackboard offers and sometimes it affects grades,” said Sayre Widener, a nursing major.

Additionally, for some students although the classroom is accessible from anywhere, it is difficult to keep up with when posts are made or updated.

“One thing I really dislike is the fact that neither your professors nor Blackboard will notify you when a class is updated,” said Sara Clinesmith, a music major, “so I get frustrated that Blackboard doesn’t have any notifications like Google Classroom does.”Some of these issues can be solved through improved communication between students and professors, or through professors seeking help when learning how to better use the platform.

“My department and I help faculty design their courses in Blackboard,” said Lori Petty, director of AC’s Center for Teaching and Learning. “We also help faculty when they have questions about assignments, tests or other items in Blackboard.”

Students say they appreciate some of the steps faculty take to simplify and streamline Blackboard. 

“Some trends that I do like about professors setting up their classes on Blackboard is that if I am on the go and I need to look at an assignment without my backpack or anything, I can just easily look under content or announcements,” said Clinesmith.

Additionally, the timing of when a professor posts assignments can improve a student’s experience.

“I like when my professor sets up all the assignments in weeks with all of it posted at once,” said Widener. “It really helps ease any stress I might have and allows me to take the course at my pace.”

Petty said that faculty will be receiving training and information about the update over the next few months. She emphasized that the navigation changes will make Blackboard easier for students to use and will enhance student success.

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